Victoria Wood (19th May 1953-20 April 2016) was an English comedian, actress, singer and songwriter, screenwriter and director. Wood was well-known for writing and starring in her own sitcoms, as well as plays, films and sketches. She was also known for stand-up and regularly played the piano during her stand-up.
Victoria Wood was born to Stanley Wood and Nellie Mape and has a brother, Chris, and two sisters, Penny and Rosalind. She attended Bury Grammar Girls' School and she began her career in showbusiness whilst studying drama as an undergraduate as the University of Birmingham, where she made appearances on New Faces - a talent show.
After having her talent recognised, she - and the winners of the show- went on to star in another series, called The Summer Show, however her first big break came from the 1976 consumer affairs programme That's Life, in which she appeared as an act. Whilst applying for Manchester Polytechnic, she met Julie Walters, who was to star in many programmes with her. They then met again whilst playing characters for the theatrical show In At The Death (1978), for which Wood wrote a short sketch.
After becoming known for her comedic talents, Wood's first play Talent was commisionsed, also in 1978, and became hit. In this, she had written a part for Julie Walters, however it was taken by Hazel Clyne. Granada Television realised how brilliant Talent was and invited Wood to create an adaptation for the small screen and it saw Julie Walters playing the part that Wood originally intended her to have.
After her previous successes with stage and television, she wrote a sequel series to Talent called Nearly a Happy Ending. After this, she wrote another play by the name of Happy Since I Met You, which was also made into a TV Series. This Series not only saw Walters return but also saw the appearance of Duncan Preston. After a couple of other plays, she was spotted and offered a show with Walters and the title of Wood and Walters was created. After a pilot was made starring Wood, Walters and Preston - amongst others - the man who had offered her this break passed away and no series followed, which Wood felt was extremely sad as she thought that a series would have been great. His replacement did not bond well with Wood and she thought his choice of actors was not the best.
After continuing to work with Granada until 1984, she eventually left due to her feeling that she lacked control of her sitcoms and later in the year, Victoria Wood As Seen On TV entered production, with her picking the actors herself. Amongst others, Wood chose Walters and Preston as well as Celia Imrie. The most famous sketch within As Seen On TV was Acorn Antiques, a purposely low-budget soap opera, which was set in an Antiques shop and was awfully acted in and filmed for comedy purposes- this included wobbling sets and dodgy camera angles. Famous characters include Mrs Overall, played by Walters, who was a rather wooden character and Miss Babs, played by Imrie, who was a very sarcastic character. As Seen On TV continued for a second series and even produced a one-off spin-off special.
In 1988, she appeared in An Audiance With Victoria Wood, which won itself a BAFTA, and during its recording, she was six months pregnant. During this time, Wood had decided to leave the sketch show format- excluding the 1992 Christmas Day Victoria Wood's All Day Breakfast- and began a series of individual stories, set in numerous locations and featuring many different characters.
In 1994, Wood created Pat and Margaret, which starred Wood and Walters playing two sisters who were not similar whatsoever, before returning to stand-alone plays. In the same year, Wood, Walters and Duncan starred in an 80 minute programme for the BBC entitled Victoria Wood: Live in Your Own Home. In 1998, she wrote her first sitcom, Dinnerladies, which focused on female characters of all ages with an amusing twist to real-life.
Around Christmas 2000, Wood created and starred in a holiday special called Victoria Wood with All The Trimmings, which saw her return to TV with the usuals as well as some very special guest stars. In 2002, Victoria Wood starred in a special, Victoria Wood's Sketch Show Story, as well as another in 2005, Victoria Wood's Big Fat Documentary. It was at his time that Wood had decided to move from comedy to drama.
In 2005, Wood adapted her most famous show into a musica, Acorn Antiques: The Musical!, which was her first musical. It showed the return of the cast, apart from Victoria Wood giving her role to Sally Ann Triplett. In early 2006, Wood wrote an adaptation of the real diaries of Nella Last, Housewife, 49, for the ITV in which she starred as the main character. This also won her BAFTAs. In November of the same year, Wood revived her musical and introduced a brand new cast. This musical ran from January to July 2007 and toured places throughout the UK.
Also in January 2007, Wood played herself in a series of adverts for Asda, the supermarket, and it showed her playing a baker. She introduced the new slogan- "there's no place like Asda". In March 2007, Wood was the subject of one episode of The South Bank Show, which was her second time as she also had appeared on it back in September 1996. She is the first and only woman who has appeared on the show more than once.
After that, she made a travel documentary by the name of Victoria's Empire, which saw her discovering the impact of British Empire upon other countries throughout the world. This is why the title has a double meaning, referring to both Victoria Wood and Queen Victoria.
Throughout many years following, she starred in bits and bobs before appearing in a celebrity version of The Apprentice: You're Fired, in June 2009. She returned to her first comedy sketch-show for 9 years with a one off Christmas special entitled Victoria Wood's Mid Life Christmas. This show included a sketch entitled Lark Pies to Cranchesterford (a spook between Lark Rise to Candleford, Little Dorrit and Cranford as well as a spoof documentary of Walters character in Acorn Antiques, Beyond the Marigolds. She also wrote and starred in many others.
She has done many things, including appearing in Eric and Ernie as Eric Morecambe's mother, appearing in the Manchester Internation Festival with a new musical amongst others.
Wood married stage magician Geoffrey Durham in March 1980 and they had two children. The couple separated in October 2002, but continued to live near one another and were on good terms. Her son Henry made a cameo appearance as a teenager in Victoria Wood's Mid Life Christmas as listed in the show's closing credits, being listed between Jennie Dale and Steve Elias on the rolling credits. He also appeared in the accompanying 'behind the scenes' programme Victoria Wood: What Larks! where his credit was placed over a still photo of himself, taken from the video footage of the recording.
Wood attended Quaker meetings with her husband and was a vegetarian, once remarking, "I'm all for killing animals and turning them into handbags. I just don't want to have to eat them."
Wood was diagnosed with terminal cancer in late 2015, but chose to keep her illness private. She died on 20 April 2016 at her Highgate home, in the presence of her children and former husband. There is presently a petition for a statue to be erected in her honour in Manchester Victoria station.